Archive for prisons

Dungeons and Prisons (and crazy Governors gone bananas)

Posted in art & music, humor, politics, racism with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 27, 2010 by Sunshine Superboy

boy oh boy. you go on one short break and all hell, damnation, and twelve-sided die break loose…

given how prisons, borders, geeks and geography have been frequent themes on the blog, I had to make sure y’all caught wind of (at least) the following two stories.

this gem, from Le New York Times:

Prisons can restrict the rights of inmates to nerd out, a federal appeals court has found.

In an opinion issued on Monday , a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected the claims in a lawsuit challenging a ban on the game Dungeons & Dragons by the Waupun Correctional Institution in Wisconsin.

The suit was brought by a prisoner, Kevin T. Singer, who argued that his First Amendment and 14th Amendment rights were violated by the prison’s decision to ban the game and confiscate his books and other materials, including a 96-page handwritten manuscript he had created for the game.

Mr. Singer, “a D&D enthusiast since childhood,” according to the court’s opinion, was sentenced to life in prison in 2002 for bludgeoning and stabbing his sister’s boyfriend to death.

Prison officials said they had banned the game at the recommendation of the prison’s specialist on gangs, who said it could lead to gang behavior and fantasies about escape.

Dungeons & Dragons could “foster an inmate’s obsession with escaping from the real-life correctional environment, fostering hostility, violence and escape behavior,” prison officials said in court. That could make it more difficult to rehabilitate prisoners and could endanger public safety, they said.

The court, which is based in Chicago, acknowledged that there was no evidence of marauding gangs spurred to their acts of destruction by swinging imaginary mauls, but it ruled nonetheless that the prison’s decision was “rationally related” to legitimate goals of prison administration.

Well, and then since we’re all just losing our damn minds, Governor Schwarzenegger figured he’d get in on the crazy

Speaking before the Sacramento Press Club on Monday, the governor suggested that the state’s economic emergency might be offset by shipping prisoners off to Mexico.

Schwarzenegger, who recently announced his intention to privatize California’s dangerously bloated prison system, evidently sees shipping prisoners south of the border as a win-win when it comes to his immigration headaches. Citing the sizable population of undocumented immigrants behind bars in California, the governor briefly described his idea:

“We pay them to build the prisons down in Mexico and then we have those undocumented immigrants be down there in a prison. … And all this, it would be half the cost to build the prisons and half the cost to run the prisons,” Schwarzenegger said, predicting it would save the state $1 billion that could be spent on higher education.

The remarks were met with confusion by state officials, not only because they were, well, confusing, but because it seemed to be the first time anyone had heard about the idea. Apparently, his own spokesman did not know where exactly Schwarzenegger came up with it

Come up with whatever wack-ass schemes need be, but it should be known that, right there with the ex-felons, the geeks shall inherit the earth.

Up Up and Away,
Sunshine Superboy

oh, and PS, any band that says “rise through the pain let the sun rise again” and “for today! the everlasting eternal sun!” and has nothing to do with jesus christ, totally rules. share a posi moment with me please:

(that high note in the last 5 seconds in like the most ridiculous and triumphant moment since destroying the One ring at Mount Doom!)


White Privilege part II

Posted in racism with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2009 by Sunshine Superboy


remember when I broached the subject a few months ago

white privilege doesn’t have to= white guilt. Owning up to your privilege (of any kind) is not an admission of being an evil judgmental oppressor. Check that BS at the door and lets get down to business, deal?

true story:
a friend of mine came to one of the United States from her native South Africa. She came for the purpose of studying here, ostensibly with people who were not idiots- her pursuit being a PhD in Anthropology. Somebody should have told her how unexpectedly idiotic and uninformed North Americans can be. Being a bright scholar, though, she figured this out very quickly and almost entirely on her own. I’m sure she anticipated that the privileges afforded legal citizens of Northern countries would come along with a certain ignorance, white-privilegebut surely political-economic legacies of institutionalized racism should be widely understood (at least among those who are privileged enough to embark on a graduate level social-science education)?! Even the white ones,… right???

So my friend, the South African scholar, she shows up in a mid-western United State and meets a white woman, a North American, and this north american women hones in on my friend and starts spouting some nonsense (leaning in to ensure that her heartfelt comments are really connecting), about how it “must have been really hard for [my friend] to get to the United States” and that her family “must be so proud and must have had to sacrifice a lot for [my friend] to be here”. Okay, so my friend is a white South African. Did I mention that?

So now my friend stares back at this quixotic North American and she’s all “actually, its not a big deal; you do get that I’m a white South African, right? Like there’s all this institutionalized privileged and wealth that was built up for white South Africans throughout most of the 20th century under apartheid.”

[blank stare] “but like, you’re from ‘Africa,’ and its like such a great privilege to have someone from your country study in the United States. Like I bet that doesn’t happen- like barely at all…”

Basically my friend walked away from the conversation after seeing that this American was not going to get it. Prolly something along the lines of “whatever, this person is an idiot.” My friend recounted this story to me, exasperated, like it was some anthropological testament to how totally oblivs someone could be.

And neither of us knew who should be more embarrassed? Me, her North American friend whose American citizenship and the inane cultural acceptability of national ignorance to global history and political economy was implicated? Or she, whose whiteness, like some sort of emperor’s clothes, could exist in the world as simultaneously so embarrassing, so arrogant, and such an impervious forcefield of power to shield, to wield, and to exert.

We shared a poignant silence realizing the fairly cast associations and how stupidities reflected on our own privileges. But also shared a motionless wink, with the trust we had in each other and solidarity that we shared, that we were who we were because we “owned” our privileges and worked to understand them. mirebiwhiteTo see the windmills and distinguish them from the real threats of institutionalized racism. To open our eyes and see that the Emperor struts, naked, vainglorious, exposed. And the roles that both nation (imperialism) and race (white supremacy) play in misrecognition and failure to identify.

My friend turned to this white gringo (she tells me), locks onto her gaze and explains quite matter of factly: “you get that being white in apartheid, and even post apartheid South Africa means that I very well may have been afforded more privileges than you (leading to my being here)?!!”

And I try to explain to white Northamericans all the time, the ways in which the overt machine of apartheid era racism, so shamelessly codified in law as recently as 15-20 years ago, is the same core of white supremacy that affords americans of european descent the hidden, invisible, or un-uttered advantages that keep the “good schools” white, the acceptible standards “anglo-american”, and the safe/innocent neighborhoods the palest in complexion.

I mean, duh. Who was locked up on Robben Island under apartheid? How many white folks (and institutions) talk about the two million black people (especially men) incarcerated in U.S. prisons– all for doing the a lot of the same shit that white folks do, in greater numbers, every day in this country??

As I said in my last post on white privilege. Shits just the tip of the iceberg.

Chimurenga! Chimurenga!
Sunshine Superboy

“psssst, dude, you sound like a racist”:

Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Loot for Food

Posted in maps & mapping, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2009 by Sunshine Superboy

Yesterday was awful. Lets not really talk about it. On a positive note, some of you devoted fans of blackmaps have begun submitting maps, links, and geeky news items for me to share with the blackmap-o-sphere, and that my friends, is totally awesome!

This one is from my good long-distance-friend,Lydia in NOLA, and it partially inspired the theme of today’s post.

keeping in the spirit of sharing and circulating awesome things that are already out there in the blogosphere, I’m reposting this interview badass radical geographer, Prof Ruth Gilmore about prisons.

Interview by Andalusia Knoll

From Sept. 26th to 28th, nearly 3,500 people from across the U.S. gathered in Oakland California for the CR10 Conference and Strategy Session. Organized by the national Grassroots Prison Abolition group Critical Resistance, conference attendees strategized and shared stories of their work to end societies use of prisons and policing as an answer to social problems. At CR10 Andalusia Knoll along with The Thousand Kites Project interviewed conference attendees and attempted to capture the stories of those organizing against the prison industrial complex.

In the following interview Andalusia Knoll speaks with professor, author and founding member of the Critical Resistance collective Ruth Gilmore.

AK: You have spoken about how the concept of Prison Abolition has become more accepted over the past ten years, since the founding of Critical Resistance. Now that more people have an understanding of what you mean when you speak about abolishing Prisons, how do do you think we should move forward?

RG: One thing that has been happening a lot that is really encouraging to me is that people work on all different kinds of issues that are across the landscape of social justice, economic justice and racial justice and gender justice activism are starting to see that every issue connects in really profound ways and one place that they all connect is around and in the prison industrial complex. ruthgilmoreThe abandonment of schools and the growth of prisons go together; enforced gender normality and the growth of prisons go together, white supremacy and the growth of prisons goes together. So now people are persuaded of the connections; practically speaking how do we craft campaigns that will move us forward? I had the good fortune yesterday to facilitate a workshop of people who worked on three different campaigns to stop jail expansion; one in New Orleans, one in Monroe County, Indiana , where the second Klan was born in the 1920’s and the third in the South Bronx. They talked about their strategies, what worked, their campaigns at different levels of development. It was exciting and inspiring to have people share their best strategies, and figure out their failures. Also, it was really obvious that the kinds of people who are drawn to the work are much more diverse in every imaginable way than people who I encountered ten years ago.

That example that you gave is definitely an inspiring one, of people who organize against the construction of new jails. That fits into the prison abolition framework, but what about many people who are more engaged in more reformist activities. In Pennsylvania there is a group called Fight for Lifers; comprised of prisoners serving life without parole and their loved ones who together are fighting for people to be able to be sentenced to life with parole, as opposed to life without parole. What advice do you have for people doing this work that is clearly necessary and how they can incorporate an overarching abolitionist thought into their work?

One of the simple rules of thumb, for me is to ask does the work that I or anybody else is doing in any way extend the scope or the life of the prison industrial complex. If people are fighting on behalf of people who are lifers to get the possibility of parole for them, what they are doing is shortening the life and scope of the prison industrial complex, by trying to figure out how, even if it is one person at a time, they can get them out. That is what abolition work is, even if it doesn’t feel like abolition work and that’s what abolition work its that kind of detail, painstaking, troubling work and that’s different than saying: That’s different from saying “We are against the death penalty. Let’s have life without parole.” That’s not abolition work even though abolishing the death penalty is a good thing.

Today after I presented a workshop about the Prison Poster Project this woman came up to me and asked “Okay I get it you don’t want people to be in prison.” But what do we want? What are these alternatives? I told her personally that I was opposed to the capitalist system at large, but to me abolition work includes a whole restructuring of society. Do you believe that prison abolition has to include this kind of restructuring and if so and how so?

The two biggest reasons that people are in prison are issues around income and issues around illness. That’s the reason most people in prison are in prison. These are things we can address without putting people in cages and employing other people to watch the people in cages. So yes, we are talking about a wholesale restructuring of society. Now some people say to me, and I’m getting old I’m in my late 50’s, “this will take forever.” That may be true, but anyone who has been paying the least attention to the news in the U.S. in the last week and a half, sees that things that take forever can happen overnight. The U.S. nationalized two major mortgage banks and the biggest insurance company in the world and in some way shape or form put up 700 billion dollars to bail out investment banks and Wall Street. If that can be done overnight, then a lot of things that we are talking about can also happen overnight if we had the political will. It takes clout

Andy Smith, (a founding member of INCITE! Women Of Color Against Violence) during her open plenary said there is some way in which we start to get a little worried that we cant get everything we want, so instead, we say lets make what is just a little bit better: better prisons, cleaner prisons, more spacious prisons, better education in prisons.. That’s not it. Political will is what we need to change things overnight There are more of us than there are them. All this money they have been talking about [with the bailout] is actually us. Abolition is taking control of all that social income for ourselves. Its kind of straightforward, we made it, it’s ours.

I’ve seen CR shirts that say something like “One day there was a world without prisons, that day will come again.” Can you speak to that, I think its become so much a part of the American mindset, that there are prisons and they have always existed.

Well a lot of people think “gosh, there have always been prisons.” But really what they are imagining are dungeons. Prisons and dungeons while they seem similar are not the same thing. Large scale individualized but impersonal cage systems are very modern. They are about the same age as the United States of America, they weren’t invented here but they were launched large scale in the early nineteenth century here and perfected here. They are currently being exported to a lot of the world. Before that, what happened? All kinds of things happened, some good, some not so good, but a lot of the sorts of problems of today that are dealt with conviction, criminalization, punishment and imprisonment are things that once upon a time were not crimes or were dealt with in sort of customary ways. Through making restitution or whatever it would take to make both the person who did the harming and the person who was harmed whole, which is to say able to get on with their lives. The intervention of cages has completely disrupted that, and it gets worse and worse and worse, as prisons become a normal part of everyday life.

Here we are at cr10, how do you envision the next 10 years?

I feel very strongly and have written about this some, what’s important in social movements is to keep the movements going, and sometimes the organizations don’t last. It doesn’t make that much difference, even though organizations are necessary to make movements happen, I imagine [Critical Resistance] will be around for ten years, if not it’s not a bad thing because other things will come into play. What my hope is, is that the kinds of things that we have learned over the past ten years and the connections we have made will make us a whole lot more successful than we were in the past ten years. The fact is that there are a million more people in prison in the U.S. than there were ten years ago, during the first conference. Some people say: “Well then ya’ll failed, didn’t you?” Well maybe, but maybe there would be 2 million more if we hadn’t been doing what we had been doing. Knowing that our small, medium and every so often large successes are I actually think there would be way more people in prison. But there are also way too many people. My hope is we are going to start seeing reduction and see this group more and more, and I hope people [reading] will make the connection between the 700 billion bailout, offered to Wall Street and the U.S. Congress and the fact that 1 out of every 100 adults eligible to go to prison based on age is in prison.

Ruth Gilmore is an Associate Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity and Geography at the University of Southern California. She is a member of the founding collective of Critical Resistance and author of Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California

Andalusia Knoll is a Station Organizer with the Prometheus Radio Project in Philadelphia and a reporter for Free Speech Radio News. She is also a member of the Prison Poster Project collective working to create a visual education tool that will challenge current reliance on prisons as a solution to social problems.

Gaza, Stripped

Posted in maps & mapping, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2009 by Sunshine Superboy


This has been making its way around the internets, and seemed approps for a repost up here. Apologies for my technical insufficiencies that make it nearly impossible to read whats going on. So the green areas are/were Palestine and the white area was/is Israel. The maps march us through time from 1946, to 1947 (the UN partition), to 1949-67 (get yr war ons), to 2000 (redux!).

One of the crucial functions that maps play in my life, is having images like this ingrained in my mind whenever the heavily audio/ rhetorical media & political world tries to parse things this way or that, minimizing or obliterating historicity. For all of my epistemic issues with borders/ frontiers etc, mapping out terrain like this, with dates and places and clear histories of who was presiding over what land and when (as for instance the UK trying to wash its hands of this whole Middle-East situation), is essential to our understandings of what is going on in the world and how that has stemmed from what took place beforehand. They try to rewrite that shit every day (listen to Condoleezza Rice speak on any given region) but you hear all of it differently when you have a clear picture in your head that puts dates, and scales, and geography all in one scope.

This is why it freaks me out that a majority of (North) Americans can’t find the United States on a map, and struggle to name even four countries that begin with the letter “U” (in english).

To even listen, let alone further engage in conversation about Palestine, it is so important for one to see images like the one above over and over and over. Maps need to be part of the conversation. At least thats our ethos at Black Maps. Elsewise we get people like Sarah Palin getting up in front of the entire country saying she can see Russia from her front porch in Alaska- and have people both believe her and vote for her…

I got this today from my friend Micha. Lets consider it some follow up on my earlier post about Blogging Gaza. Buh-here’s what Micha wrote:

Hi folks. My friend, Brian, started up a project called “Alive in Gaza“, following his work on “Alive in Baghdad”. He helps get reporting equipment into war zones and then helps publish reports from people on the ground. Check it out . He’s looking for various help with fundraising, translating, etc. I thought you might be interested in knowing about it.

I did check it out and it really is well done and exciting nah, its fantastic! Both in concept and delivery. It looks pretty spanking new, but so far it features audio dispatches from Gaza (with expressed intent of daily updates!), maps, and on-the-ground news updates of the situation over there.


And because size and scope are important (especially in this age of GoogleMaps and GoogleEarth), here is a non-google zoom in on the Gaza Strip. Again, so you can situate voices from blog dispatches to NPR who are speaking from and about Rafah, Erez, Gaza City, Beit Hanoun and all the rest of it. This one of, if not the most densely populated places in the world. Since Israeli forces pulled out of Gaza a couple years ago it has been penned in and made into what many folks are calling the largest prison in the world.

Scroll back up to that map at the top (the green and white one). With that map in mind, does this prison analogy seem a bit less metaphorical? Kinda makes you think people aren’t just embellishing when they talk about the Palestinian people getting fenced in

I’m gonna sign off here and leave you with a map I dug up of the West Bank and an excerpt from this awesome democratic media project, Alive in Gaza.


Esteban Sunshine Superboy


Dispatch from Muhammed: “Non-stop Shelling”
January 13th, 2009

[Original Editor’s Note: “The following dispatch is a letter from Muhammed Al Ja’bawi in Gaza to our Regional Bureau Chief Omar Abdullah”]
Salam Alaikum Omar,
The situation is deteriorating each day inside the Gaza Strip. I cannot find the words to describe what is going on now in Gaza. The shelling is non-stop from the north and east of Gaza.
The Israeli troops are slowly approaching the northern side of Gaza, where the Hamas resistance is still on.
Today I contacted my cousin Ahmad, who lives close to northern Gaza in (….) Quarter. He said the Israeli troops suffered grave loss, whereas Hamas emplaced a great deal of improvised explosive devices targeting the Israeli forces as they were advancing.
As for me, I had to evacuate my house after we heard loud sound of shooting and missiles. We are now staying in an UNRWA-run school. Thank Goodness there is not any Hamas operatives or other resistance members among us in this school, but we do not know what tomorrow is holding for us. This is our first day in school. We have enough food and some supplies that will see us through for a number of days.
I will try to contact you again today, or tomorrow morning, God willing. I will most likely get hold of a new battery for my mobile phone. You can call me tomorrow morning at 9:00 or 10:00 a.m. Gaza local Time.
God bless brother Omar,
Muhammed Al Ja’bawi

[Ed: “The letter in its original arabic”]
السلام عليكم اخ عمر
ان الوضع يتأزم يوم بعد الاخر داخل القطاع,
لاتوجد كلمات توصف الحدث
القائم في غزة الان, القصف مستمر من الجهة
الشمالية و الجهة الشرقة من
القطاع, القوات الاسرائلية تتقدم ببطئ من
الناحية الشمالية لقطاع غزة و
المقاومة من قبل حماس مستمرة , اتصلت اليوم
بأبن عمي احمد و هو يسكن
بالقرب من المنطقة الشمالية للقطاع في حي () و
قد اعلمني ان القوات
الاسرائيلية قد تكبدت عدد من الخسائر في حين
ان حماس اقمت بنصب عدد من
العبوات الناسفة لاستهداف القوات
الاسرائلية عن تقدمها
اما بالنسبة لي فقد اضطررت الى اخلاء منزلي
بعد سماعنا اطلاق نار كثيف و
دوي عدد من القذائف, نحن الان نسكن في مدرسة
تابعة الى الانوروا , و
الحمد لله لا يوجد اي من اعضاء حماس و اي من
جهات المقاومة الاخرى معنا
في هذه المدرسة , و لكن لانعرف ماهو مصيرنا
غدا , اليوم هو يومنا الاول
في المدرسة , يوجد لدينا ما يكفي من الطعام و و
بعض المعدات لعدة ايام
ساحاول ان اعاود الاتصال بك مجددا اليوم او
غدا صباحا ان شاء الله , و
على الاغلب ساحصل على بطارية جديدة لهاتفي
النقال , يمكنك ان تتصل بي غدا
صباحا بي الساعة التاسعة و العاشرة صباحا
بتوقيت غزة
في امان اللله اخي عمر
محمد الجبعاوي
[For more independent citizen journalism, please support Alive in Gaza]